A gust of wind whirled up a great wave of snow and each man turned so as to meet the onslaught with his back.
“A night for wolves,” said one.
“A night for the devil,” said another.
“A night for the dead,” said a third.
“Vasile, we shall freeze if we find no wood,” said Scurtu again.
“Where can one find wood in this desert?” answered Vasile still using his gun as a shepherd’s staff.
“Thy legs are young,” began Petre Pasca, “and, after all, the night is not so very dark. …”
“Not so very dark because of the snow,” said someone from the other side of the cinders.
“It is the devil’s night,” repeated one of the men with a groan.
“Vasile, thy legs are young…” persisted Petre Pasca, and old Scurtu who had been struggling to light a cigarette, looked up.
“Aye, aye, thy legs are young, why not search for some wood?”
“I am here to guard the prisoners,” protested Vasile, clacking his feet one against the other, but otherwise not shifting his position.
“A dog could guard them!” exclaimed Scurtu. “Besides I am here in command.”
Someone laughed hoarsely.
“Thy old one would be proud of thy honors!”
“Leave my old one alone,” snapped Scurtu; “she was young in her day and has borne me many children, mostly boys.”
“Where are they?”
Scurtu shrugged his shoulders and made a deprecating gesture with his hands.
“God alone knows with this war… and then the Boches…” he added vaguely after a pause.
“They know how to fight,” said someone.
“They are the devil’s own,” repeated a voice out of the dark.
“That does not help us much,” said another.
After many efforts
“No, but their cannons would!” sneered Scurtu who after many efforts with his flint had managed to light a damp cigarette.
“Even now do you not hear them?” asked Vasile.
“Curse them!” said several voices together and then there was silence a while, the wind alone filling the night with its howl.
“Vasile,” began Petre again, who was a persistent fellow, “thy legs are young and there must be wood somewhere, and the night is not so very dark. …”
“If we do not find something to bum we shall all be dead before morning,” Scurtu agreed with slow nods of his head. “Shoulder thy gun, Vasile, and go and search—anything will do.”